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In a month’s time, the city will end GetFoodNYC operations, ending the emergency food program created in response to the pandemic. As the peak of the crisis has passed, the need for food remains high, especially among older and vulnerable New Yorkers.
Even before the pandemic, 1 in 4 seniors living at home was at nutritional risk. Then COVID struck, creating a particularly devastating crisis for the elderly. Older residents, the most susceptible to the coronavirus, have locked themselves inside. Unsurprisingly, requests for home-delivered meals have exploded.
At Encore Community Services, we saw a 45% increase in demand in the first few weeks of the pandemic and rushed to meet the needs. We provided 1,600 delivered meals per day to seniors in West Manhattan, up from 1,100 previously. Our peer organizations have seen similar demands. Unfortunately, we have not received funding to support the growing demand for meals, despite being recognized experts in the field. Instead, the city used federal funding to create a new emergency food program, GetFoodNYC, and that program was run by the Department of Sanitation rather than the Department of Aging (DFTA).
On October 1, the city will begin shutting down GetFoodNYC and is now turning to nonprofit senior service providers to ease the transition for 19,000 still enrolled seniors. Again, we are supposed to solve problems without any promise of funding or sustained support.
A handful of people still registered with GetFoodNYC may return to recently reopened senior centers for their meals. But many likely have limited mobility and would be eligible for DFTA-funded home delivery meals. However, most providers, like Encore Community Services, are at full capacity with city-capped contracts and cannot scale to meet needs.
Additionally, while GetFoodNYC provided three meals a day as an emergency service, regular meal delivery customers supported by city-funded programs receive only one meal a day, often the only meal they have. they eat. This is clearly not enough.
As the city works towards a fair COVID recovery, we cannot forget about the elderly and their nutritional needs. In fact, over the next several years, the needs of older New Yorkers will only increase as the demographics continue to change. The situation requires significant and long-term investments from the city, including additional funding for DFTA, increased flexibility with city contracts and an emergency food plan to ensure all older people have uninterrupted access. to food before the next crisis.
Jeremy Kaplan is the Executive Director of Encore Community Services.